In a speech to Boston College, on the 18th November, 1970, Huey Newton, one of the founders of the Black Panther Party in 1966, said:

... But by and large you can see the transformation which was achieved by time and the highly technological society whose tremendous mass media functions as an indoctrination centre. The ruling class has launched satellites in order to project a beam across the world and indoctrinate the world ...

... if the world is really that interconnected, then we have to acknowledge that and say that in order to for the people to be free, they will have to control the institutions of their community, and have some form of representation in the technological centre that they have produced. The United States, in order to correct its robbery of the world, will have to first return much of what it has stolen. I don't see how we can talk about socialism when the problem is world distribution. I think this is what Marx meant when he talked about the non-state.

Q. What did Huey Newton mean by 'non-state' and how does it compare to Marx's conception of it?

1 Answer 1


The concept is discussed in "The Death of the State in Marx and Engels" by Hal Draper (1970), summarized here, which would have been hot off the presses at the time that Newton gave his speech, and probably influenced the discussion in left leaning political circles, whether or not he read it himself. The summary explains that:

Engels’ “On Authority” already mentioned in passing that, as the state disappeared, “public functions will lose their political character and be transformed into the simple administrative functions of watching over the true interests of society”. The same idea appeared just as incidentally in another work of that year (1872):

Anarchy: that is the great war-horse of their master Bakunin, who has taken from the socialist systems only the labels. All socialists understand this by Anarchy: once the aim of the proletarian movement, the abolition of classes, has been attained, the state power which serves to keep the great productive majority under the yoke of an exploiting minority small in numbers, disappears, and the governmental functions are transformed into simple administrative functions. The Bakuninist Alliance turns the thing upside-down.

This recalls Saint-Simon’s saying about replacing the state with the “administration of things”. The state would lose its “political character”, that is, its repressive and coercive character, especially in terms of class repression and coercion, but there would still be “public functions” to be organized. What type of (non-state) social organism will still be needed to organize these “public functions”?

The question is further highlighted as soon as the state concept is separated from the wider concept of authority as such-a separation brought to the fore by the controversy with anarchism. For this means that the disappearance of the state does not yet imply the disappearance of all exercise of authority in society. This in turn implies the continued existence of limited organs of authority of some kind.

Obviously this invites the kind of semi-fictional speculation about the future which Marx and Engels resolutely refused to carry on, and still less were they willing to work out prescriptions for that future.

  • -1: This doesn't even mention the 'non-State'. It's Marxism orthodoxy that the state withers away in the final phase of vommunism - but I don't think this is the 'non-State'. Apr 6, 2021 at 11:16
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    @MoziburUllah Third paragraph. The larger literature supports my conclusion and "non-State" is not a phrase actually used by Marx. But this piece was most on point and relevant to explaining what was meant.
    – ohwilleke
    Apr 6, 2021 at 17:47

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